07/01/2014 03:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Right Answer I Almost Didn't Give My Daughter

Karen Mangiacotti

I was brushing my teeth in my bathroom as Gia Luna (5) watched me from the edge of the tub.

Gia Luna: "Mommy, when I grow up will I be as beautiful as you are?"

I choked on my toothpaste.

I saw her sweet little reflection in the mirror, her face earnest as she waited for a response she hoped would be affirmative. In all sincerity, she was hoping to be assured that she could look like... me.

My brows furrowed, my mind raced. Are you kidding me? I thought. Are you really setting the bar that low? You are gorgeous, you are radiant, you are young and unstoppable! Why would you want to look like me, when you actually look like you? Good God, girl! You have flawless skin, puffy lips, big blue eyes and your father's metabolism. Haven't you noticed my nose is too big? My hair is a fire hazard? My -- and then I stopped.

Is that really who I want to be?

Fighting with passion so others will realize how unattractive I am? My 5-year-old daughter tells me I am beautiful and I am disagreeing with her? I have this moment to show her how to handle a compliment with grace, to be comfortable in loving yourself, to show her strength is a part of beauty.

I was not going to f*ck it up.

"Yes," I said, biting my tongue so I didn't say, "You will be even more beautiful! Way prettier than I have ever dreamed of being!"

Gia Luna didn't need to hear that. She just needed to know she could be like her hero, and that hero is me.

And that is really beautiful.

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